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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel Army Closes Areas Near Gaza Citing Reprisals Risk

Senior Islamic Jihad official Bassem al-Saadi, seen here in 2013, has been arrested by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank putting Israel on alert for reprisals SAIF DAHLAH AFP/File

Israel's army closed areas near the Gaza border to civilians Tuesday, citing a risk of reprisals, following the overnight arrest of two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad members, the military and Palestinian sources said.

A 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces during a late Monday raid in the flashpoint West Bank district of Jenin. The army said it had operated alongside police, who arrested "two wanted terror suspects."

A Palestinian security source, who requested anonymity, told AFP that one of those arrested was Bassem al-Saadi, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad's political wing in the West Bank.

The source identified the second person detained as Saadi's son-in-law, a Jenin-based fundraiser for militant group.

The army said: "Following a situational assessment after terrorist activities were identified with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, it was decided to block off areas and routes adjacent to the Gaza Strip security fence.

"The area has been closed to civilians due to a direct threat and in order to prevent a possible attack on civilians."

Prime Minister Yair Lapid was reviewing security Tuesday in light of the threat risk, a government statement said.

Saadi was injured by an Israeli army dog during his arrest, the Palestinian source said. As news of his detention spread, crowd's began to gather in Jenin refugee camp and the nearby city of Nablus, as supporters voiced solidarity with Islamic Jihad.

"We declare alertness and raise the readiness of our mujahideen (fighters)," the group said in a statement late Monday.

Home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, Gaza has been under Israeli blockade since 2007 when Islamist group Hamas ousted forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The latest unrest comes amid rising violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At least 55 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank.

They have included suspected militants and also non-combatants, among them Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American dual national, who was covering an Israeli raid in Jenin.

Attacks on Israeli targets have killed 19 people over the same period, most of them civilians killed in attacks inside Israel. Three Israeli Arab attackers have also been killed.

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